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Sponsored content: Journalistic, effective, innovative storytelling

Quality sponsored content: Journalistic, effective, innovative storytelling

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On this page, we seek to answer some of the more commonly asked questions about this new service

1.What is sponsored content?

In its simplest definition, sponsored content is advertising that looks and reads just like any other story in Gulf News. Around the world, sponsored content takes the same form and qualities of a publisher’s own content, which means that the content needs to offer readers useful or entertaining information, and at the same time favourably influences the readers’ perception of the sponsor’s brand.

This style of advertising has been described by several names, one of which is the term ‘native advertising’ which is common in some markets.  Gulf News use the label ‘sponsored content’.

WATCH: All you need to know about Reach... Matthew Moore, Group Marketing Manager at Gulf News talks about the value of sponsored content.


It is important that sponsored content should not be a straightforward description of the product or brand. Such a simple write-up would not achieve the right levels of reader engagement, which sponsored content would seek to do by focussing on tangential or supporting topic or topics that will create a “halo effect” around the brand.

2. What is the benefit of sponsored content?

The real benefit is that the readers engage with the stories before they notice that the content is backed by a brand. Sponsored content blends the best of both journalistic and advertising content, and allows a publication to leverage its best assets in reporting and storytelling in all its forms, while also maintaining one of its core value propositions as an effective and innovative advertising partner.

à It is very important that if the story is not good enough to appear in Gulf News, it will not make the cut as sponsored content. This is the simple and essential criteria for all sponsored content at Gulf News. It means that sponsored content is not a way to buy editorial space.

3. How are sponsored content stories distinguished from regular stories in Gulf News?

While it is vital that the readers are engaged and interested, they should not feel that the publication and its advertising partners are trying to fool them. This is why sponsored content stories will be clearly labelled as such at the top of each piece.

All publications should label their sponsored content, and the descriptions used by different news media around the world varies. Tags are used like: “advertisement,” “featured content,” “sponsored content,” “suggested post,” and “promoted content,” and in many countries legislation has been passed to protect consumers from being deceived by misleading sponsored content.

* Sponsored content in Gulf News will be labelled as either “sponsored” or “partner” content.

4. What is the difference

between sponsored content and traditional advertising content?

Sponsored content is much higher up the marketing funnel and it is intended to establish relationships and awareness. Display ads are for reminders or point-of-purchase decisions. It is important to emphasise that, just because Gulf News is adding sponsored content to its advertising palette, this does not stop its long established relationships. Gulf News welcomes and will continue to work with traditional advertising positions throughout all of its platforms.

5. Who generates sponsored content?

While the brand supporting the content may still be involved in shaping it, sponsored content requires the editors to plan and produce it.

The normal way to start would be for the Reach by Gulf News team to meet a potential client, with both editorial and sales staff present at that meeting. The initial discussion would focus on what kind of story-telling is required, which means that the editorial would take a lead and help define what brand attributes or lifestyle activities that the brand is (or wants to be) associated with.

The Reach by Gulf News team would then take away these ideas and convert them into an outline action plan. We would also analyse a brand’s objectives along with content search trends and audience segmentation from our AudSCience engine, aligning it to the ROI a brand wants to achieve.

This would include defining what kind of media works better for the kind of content envisaged – text, images, video, social media. The decisions would also include what would be the best mix for any client’s particular project. Only at that stage can pricing start.

Once everything is agreed, the next stage is the most important part of the project with the creation of the unique content for the story-telling. Once finalised, Gulf News then has a final check when the draft content is approved by senior editors (as happens to any editorial content) so that the quality and reader interest are maintained, as is the client’s objectives. 

6. What are some of the basic rules of sponsored content?

Sponsored content is structured to engage, educate and entertain the reader, as well as build brand awareness and create goodwill toward the advertiser.

The four essential rules that publishers must follow are:

* The truth: Sponsored content must be truthful and accurate.

* Interesting and engaging: For people to want to read it, the sponsored content must be interesting and compelling. The stories are not focussed on the advertisers themselves, but about an important issue or a hot trend. Done right, sponsored content is very effective. Customers will be talking about your sponsored story and they will view your business as a leading source for your product and services.

* Looks and reads like… Good sponsored content fulfills most of the same principles as regular content, and should gather comments like: “it was useful even to someone not interested in buying”, “is not disguised”, “provides value to the reader” and “is honest and without hyperbole”.

* Must be properly labelled as sponsored or partner content. The reader deserves to know that the content has been sponsored by a brand, and if the brand has played a greater part in developing the content then it has to be described as partner content. These two levels of sponsorship mean that everyone knows what is going on.

7. What’s the role of social media within the realm of sponsored content?

At Gulf News we know that many readers come to our stories through social media, and we are well aware that audiences use Facebook and other social media platforms a lot. That is why we are so active on these platforms ourselves!

This is why part of any sponsored content package will include a strong social media presence that will help navigate audiences to the content on the website.

8. What is the best platform for sponsored content, and is print included?

This is a key question, and it is very important that an entire sponsored content story is “platform-agnostic” even if the supporting elements run across several platforms. Some kinds of content work well in print and others can only run in digital formats. The client who buys sponsored content is going to see it across platforms and that the content’s destination is an early part of the discussion with clients, as the Reach by Gulf News team work with their clients to identify which platforms are best suited to amplify any brand’s particular message.

* Here you see how a typical sponsored content story may appear in its print version.

9. What is REACH by Gulf News?

REACH by Gulf News is the branded content team from GN Media that offers advertising clients the benefits of a full service, including journalistic know how and content development, that can reach combined an audience of over 4.2 million people with the best in editorial and multimedia talent.

Never has it been more important for brands, advertisers and publishers to collaborate on creative solutions.

Audiences are researching products online to support their purchase decisions and are becoming more selective in what they view, sometime ignoring advertising.

The needs for brands to engage and earn audience through trusted, original, informative and entertaining content has become critical.

We create front page visibility, features, or editorial for your own channels and we work across print, email, web and social media. Our strategists, creative technologists and content creators are focused on helping achieve a proper return on investment for our partners’ brands.

A global practice

Three examples of how major brands have sponsored original content with real value that reflects their brand or values without making a direct sell. The beauty, immediate usefulness, and social causes contained in these pieces greatly add to the reader experience while also generating revenue to the publisher.

Cole Hann, the mainstream shoe giant, sponsored this beautiful piece of art. No sales point but a very strong association with beauty.

Netflix sponsored this deeply moving study of the problems of women prisoners, having already launched the series Orange is the new Black.

Philips did not mention any of their many electrical products when they sponsored this fourpart series on health, including one in Chinese.

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